On Monday night, Ken, my old neighbor and fellow Hamburg High School alum, and I drove around Buffalo’s historic waterfront. In recent years (read: since I’ve been gone), Buffalo has been pumping money into rejuvenating its waterfront property on Lake Erie. It seems to be working. Beautiful open green spaces have replaced decaying buildings and parking lots. New covered picnic areas provide shade while dozens of freshly planted trees mature. The amount of public physical activity happening along the water on a Monday night was incredible. People running, jogging, walking, playing Frisbee, stand-up paddle boarding… in Buffalo? It’s true! Buffalo is finally getting a facelift.
However, reminders of the old industries remain, battling the weather in silence. For now, grain elevators still dot the horizon, though some have already been demolished in the name of public safety. I can’t help but romanticize these hulking concrete beasts. They are part of my memory, part of my heritage. I am a rust belt baby, birthed on the shores of a Great Lake, blue collar to the bone, with a heart made of steel and coal.